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UEFA ChampionshipUEFA approves eight-game group stage for Champions League

UEFA approves eight-game group stage for Champions League

UEFA has approved changes to the Champions League format from the 2024-25 season, including an increase to eight group-stage matches.

In April, European football’s governing body announced that the competition would expand from 32 teams to 36 in two seasons’ time.

And following talks in Vienna on Tuesday, the UEFA Executive Committee confirmed the number of rounds in the group stage would increase from six to eight.

All group and knockout-stage games until the final will continue to be on midweek days, as is currently the case.

Two of the four other places in the expanded format will be awarded based on the highest-performing countries from the past season across UEFA club competitions.

If that had been the case this season, an additional team from the Premier League and Eredivisie would have qualified for next season’s tournament.

There are reports that those two places would go to clubs based on their historical performance in European competition, but that is no longer the case.

Of the other two spots, an extra team will qualify from the fifth-ranked country in Europe.

While another will go to one of the domestic champions who do not qualify automatically.

Commenting on the changes, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said:

“UEFA has clearly shown today that we are fully committing to respect the fundamental values of sport.

“And defending the critical principle of open competitions, with qualification based on sporting merit.

“Entirely in line with the values and solidarity-based European sports model.

“Today’s decisions conclude an extensive consultation process during which we listened to the ideas of fans, players, coaches, national associations, clubs and leagues, to name but a few, to find the best solution for the development and success of European football, both domestically and on the international club stage.”

Under the new format, the initial phase will contain a single league consisting of all 36 teams.

Each side played four home games and four away games against eight different opponents.

The top eight sides in the league will qualify automatically for the knockout stage.

While the teams finishing in ninth to 24th place will compete in a two-legged play-off to secure the last 16.

Ceferin added:

“We are convinced that the format chosen strikes the right balance and that it will improve the competitive balance

“And generate solid revenues that can be distributed to clubs, leagues and grassroots football across our continent

“While increasing the appeal and popularity of our club competitions.

“I am happy that it was a unanimous decision of the UEFA Executive Committee.

“With the European Club Association, European Leagues and National Associations all agree with the proposal.

“Another proof that European football is more united than ever.

“Qualification will thus remain purely based on sporting performance.

“And the dream to participate will remain for all clubs.”

UEFA will be applying similar format changes to Europa and Conference League.

Both also included 36 teams in the initial league phase.

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